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Five activists arrested after illegal raid

AI-Index: ASA 35/1810/2020

Five activists from Tacloban City, Philippines, were arrested on 7 February 2020 over charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives following an illegal raid. The activists, along with other groups that conducted a fact-finding mission about the arrest, however allege multiple violations, including fabrication of evidence, committed by the security forces. We call on the Philippine Department of Justice to promptly, thoroughly, impartially and effectively investigate these allegations and, if proven, to drop all charges against the activists, and ensure their release. The authorities should hold those reasonably suspected to be responsible to account in fair trials.


Community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio, Mariel Domequil from the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, People Surge Network Spokesperson Marissa Cabaljao, Mira Legion from Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Eastern Visayas, and Karapatan National Council member Alexander Philip Abinguna were arrested on 7 February 2020 in simultaneous raids in Tacloban City.

Legion and Cabaljao are facing bailable charges of illegal possession of firearms; Legion was released on bail on 14 February, while bail requirements are being prepared for Cabaljao as of writing. Cumpio, Domequil and Abinguna are facing non-bailable charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and are detained at a jail facility of Palo town police station.

Domequil and Cumpio were arraigned on 18 February 2020. Following inconsistencies with some information presented by the prosecution, such as the serial number of the firearm supposedly recovered and the dates indicated on the medical certificates of the two activists, the court gave the prosecution five days to change the information. The activists’ lawyers will then have 10 days to comment on the changes. The next hearing for Domequil and Cumpio is scheduled on 5 March 2020. Cabaljao, Legion and Abinguna will be arraigned on 25 March 2020.

Since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016, human rights defenders and political activists have been subjected to repeated harassment, threats and attacks, including killings. Many of these defenders and activists belong to organizations that the government or unknown individuals have «red-tagged» or accused of being fronts for communist groups without credible evidence, an accusation that they have repeatedly denied.

Amid the worsening human rights record of the country, the UN Human Rights Council has asked the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on the country’s human rights situation, to be presented during the Council’s June 2020 session.

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